Leonard Edwards has a wealth of knowledge, undeniable passion, and commitment to social justice. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Master of Social Work, a Bachelor of Social Work, Honors from York University, a Certificate in Anti-Racist Research & Practice (CARRP) -York University, and a Diploma in Community Work & Development from George Brown College.
Leonard, who is from St. George, Grenada, lives and works in Toronto as a social worker/community advocate. Quoting E.E. Cummings “Life’s not a paragraph and death I think is no parenthesis” has become his mandate of life. Leonard states, “For me it means that life is not just a paragraph, because it is our entire story, it embodies our versatility and diverse experiences. Death is not contained in parenthesis, because our spirit lives on beyond death into infinity it defies everything. I live my life deeply framed in this mantra.”
Leonard has always aspired to work in a field where helping others was second nature. He states, “I remember as a child pretending to be a teacher. Back then I had no idea what a social worker was but I remember when I attended the T.A Marry show at a Community College in Grenada and I immediately became very much interested in the work of Karl Marx and other sociologists. I believe that’s when I began thinking about social issues on a broader scale. These sociologists gave birth to my social consciousness.”
He was inspired by the work of Karl Marx and people like Jane Adams and his motivation to become a social worker was also influenced by varying experiences; personal, family, and community. Leonard believes that in order to be an effective and efficient social worker; one must possess certain personal attributes. He says that, “A social worker must enjoy working with people,” he continues, “Having worked in the human services field both locally and internationally for over 8 years, I can truly say that I am committed to work with individuals from all walks of life, diverse backgrounds and experiences, and who at-times share different values, ideas, and beliefs systems than my own. This is a critical attribute, as it will allow me the opportunity to understand and be sensitive to the issues clients face.”
Leonard thinks that the most important lesson he has learnt have been those relative to him being an immigrant to Canada. Also, the experiences of being an immigrant of color coupled with race, gender, sexuality, and being able bodied influence and dictate the path of his daily life.
He is more aware of how his experiences are driven by normalization. The process has vaulted him into a position of privilege and marginalization. According to Leonard, his educational success has put him in an advantageous position which allows him to feel comfortable in society. However, being an immigrant and a person of color has caused him to experience exclusion and marginalization.
He feels unaccepted by members of his community (African Caribbean Diaspora) because of his position on various issues. He states that, “Throughout these experiences I was able to find my authentic self, discover my voice and became an advocate for other groups within our communities that are marginalized and oppressed such as members of the LBGTTTIQQ community and sex workers.”
Leonard plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Social Work in order to acquire the skills needed to conduct theoretical and practical research. His doctorial studies will also enable him to apply interventions and best practices that could benefit individuals and communities suffering from social and physical inequalities.